Thursday, 16 January 2014

Thrifty Food Tips for January

January is all about trying not to spend money for me.  No matter how hard I try, there's always a slight overspend in December, and of course there's overindulgence too.  So, some good old-fashioned principles of make do and mend can equally be applied to food, to help us through this tough month.  Let's look to the leaflets produced by Britain's Ministry of Food in WWII for inspiration.  I'm lucky enough to have found a few of these original leaflets at car boot sales, and I have a couple of books detailing wartime recipes also.  The main points that I have gathered from these that we can put into practice now are:

1. Use what you've got.
This means reaching into the dark recesses of cupboards and using that half used bag of risotto rice that's been there for a year.  Any small amounts of grains and pulses, like cous cous, pearl barley, rice, lentils etc. are ideal to be chucked into a stew or soup to help make it more of a meal.  A great way to use them up rather than to have to buy another packet of the item to have enough to base a whole meal on.

2. Don't let it go to waste.
We had far too many lemons, limes and plums left over after Christmas and there was no way we were going to get through them all, so I made lemon curd, plum jam and preserved lemons (for use in Morroccan cooking).  The plum jam was a bit of a disaster, it's overcooked so it's as thick as tar, and the only way to use it is on opening a pot, to add a tablespoon of boiling water and stir it in to loosen it.  At least it won't be wasted, and it tastes nice.  For old-fashioned jams and chutneys you can't go wrong using Mrs Beeton's book, a vintage classic that never fails.

3.  Make Your Own
Buying things like jars of ready made pasta sauce is uneconomical, and unhealthy.  There was a bit of a controversy in the UK last year I recall about the amount of added salt and sugar in celebrity chef pasta sauces.  A simple pasta sauce can be whipped up with chopped tomatoes or passata, a bit of onion, any herbs you have handy, and it could also be reduced down to make a pizza topping.  For an improvised pizza base, use a flatbread or tortilla.  Making things like pizza yourself also gives you much more control over how much fat you add to it - you can use reduced fat cheese yourself, or just use much less, adding more veggies on top instead.

4.  Grow Your Own
Even if you live in a flat with no garden, you can still grow hardy herbs like rosemary and thyme in a pot.  They're almost impossible to kill (believe me, I'm not at all green-fingered) and so easy to get started - just take a cutting from a friend or family member's plant and pop it in a pot with some compost, it will get going in no time.  Growing fruit and vegetables involves a bit more skill and effort, but you can start with easy things like radishes and rocket.

5.  Repurpose Leftovers
Kids didn't eat all their veggies at Sunday dinner?  Don't waste them, pop them in a tupperware and the next day you can add them to a salad for a light lunch at work, or save them until evening and pop them in a curry, stir fry or stew.

I don't think that these kind of principles necessarily mean much more effort, but it does require a bit more thinking, planning and being creative.  I've spent far longer than normal looking up recipes on the BBC Good Food website, but that's not a bad thing.  I've learnt many more recipes based on vegetables in season at this time of year, like red and white cabbages, and so far this month I really have spent much less on food that what I would do normally.

Do you have any thrifty food tips for the winter months?


  1. Hi! I found your blog when you replied to a comment I had made about weekend vs weekday wardrobes on By Gum By Golly. And now I'm happily following you on Bloglovin! I love your style and the topics of your posts. Have you read How to Cook a Wolf by MFK Fisher? She was a great food writer and all around interesting lady, and in this book, she addresses cooking during rationing. She's from the US, but spent a lot of time abroad, so she's aware of the stricter (than the US) rationing that lots of countries had. The whole book is right along the lines of this post, and is very witty.

    1. Hello Amanda, thank you for stopping by! And thanks even more for the follow ;)
      I haven't heard of that book, it sounds amazing though, I've just had a look for it online. What an intriguing character Mrs Fisher was as well! I particularly liked a harsh review of the book on Amazon that stated that she clearly "preferred liquor to food". Sounds like my kind of woman already!

      Thanks again for the tip, I hope to get hold of a copy soon.

      P xx

  2. Wise, practical tips, honey. January and February are always lean months on this end, too, then soon after tax season hits and those are soooo much leaner still, so I can certainly relate. One thing that I like to do is to swap items with my folks sometimes. For example, if we buy a case of canned green beans and they buy a 12lb bag of rice, we might trade half for half, that way we can each stretch each other's pantry stocks further.

    ♥ Jessica

    1. What a good idea to swap things! I must confess, my folks 'donate' a lot of things to us - my Dad has fruit trees and there's always a glut that needs using up. Very handy to have things like cooking apples, and they keep for months if you wrap them individually in newspaper and store them somewhere cold.

      Hang on in there for the lean months lovely!


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